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I am constantly humbled by other artists. There is so much talent and skills out there, at times I feel like I can't even categorize myself an artist. Rather, I'm just a kid playing around with some paint.
Does it make me want to quit? No, I can't quit. As any creative person knows, the absence of our creative outlet would drive us to madness. I'm committed. No matter what, I'll be painting until the day I die. Sometimes however, it makes me feel like recoiling and never showing anyone my work.
Why am I sharing this when part of being a successful artist seems to be about posturing, having an inflated ego, and believing that your genius is superior so everyone else will believe it too? I am sharing this because I know some people get that same feeling of being small when they look at my own work and I want to encourage those people to keep going.
When we look at established artists, it is natural to feel inferior. But we are only seeing the tail end of probably thousands of hours spent refining the craft. The reality is, some have put in more time than others and that's the only reason they might seem more talented. It's not a matter of natural ability, it is a matter of hours spent.
There is nothing we can do about the innate talents we are given, we either have them or we don't. But developing our skills is entirely within our control. There are plenty of talented people out there that we never hear about or see simply because they do not put in the time to develop the skill needed to take their talent to the next level.
Personally, I believe that if we are given a talent, it is our duty to develop it. I remember when I was 14, my friend's dad told me this story that always stuck with me: God gave a man one single talent and the man never used it. So, God took away his talent and gave it to another who has 10. Lamenting, the man asked God, "Why would you take away my only talent to give it to the guy who already has 10? That doesn't seem fair!" God replied, "Because the one who has 10 uses them all."
Now, this isn't about God or religion, take or leave the labels. It's about the message that it is important to develop our natural abilities. Otherwise, we will loose them.
I also want to talk about the flip side of this coin which is that sometimes, it won't matter how much time we put into something, we just don't have the ability to develop the skill. There is a lot of wisdom in knowing what we are simply not good at. Sure, it would be nice to be a rock star singer but if we don't have that voice at all to begin with, it is really hard to develop it and it would be a waste of energy to try.
We have to know what we have potential in and what we don't. What really becomes important is distinguishing between talent with a lack of time and effort, or an overall a lack of potential.
It is not to say that if we aren't really adept at something but we still enjoy doing it that we shouldn't do it. Follow your bliss. But we've all seen the first episodes of an American Idol season... Just make sure to have more than your mom's opinion to go by.
We have to be honest with ourselves with where our potentials lie. If we are trying to develop our skills in an area that we don't have any potential in, and it's not just for fun, we are wasting our time. And if we aren't developing our skills in the areas we do have potential in, we are wasting our talent.